« AnteriorContinuar »
its firm, compact case was in no danger from woodpeckers, as it might have been if resting directly upon a branch or tree trunk. Near by was the cocoon of another species (Cecropia) that was fastened directly to the limb; but this was vague, loose, and much more involved and net-like. I have seen the downy woodpecker assaulting one of these cocoons, but its yielding surface and webby interior seemed to puzzle and baffle him. I am interested even in the way each climbing plant or vine goes up the pole, whether from right to left, or from left to right,- that is, with the hands of a clock or against them,- whether it is under the law of the great cyclonic storms of the northern hemisphere, which all move against the hands of a clock, or from west to east, or in the contrary direction, like the cyclones in the southern hemisphere. I take pleasure in noting every little dancing whirlwind of a summer day that catches up the dust or the leaves before me, and every little funnel-shaped whirlpool in the swollen stream or river, whether or not they spin from right to left or the reverse. If I were in the southern hemisphere I am sure I should note whether these things were under the law of its cyclones in this respect or under the law of ours. As a rule, our twining plants and toy whirlwinds copy our revolving storms and go against the hands of the clock. But there are exceptions. While the bean, the bittersweet, the morning glory, and others go up from left to right, the hop, the wild buckwheat, and some others go up from right to left. Most of our forest trees show a tendency to wind one way or the other, the hard woods going in one direction, and the hemlocks and pines and cedars and butternuts in another. In different localities, or on different geological formations, I find these directions reversed. I recall one instance in the case of a hemlock six or seven inches in diameter, where this tendency to twist had come out of the grain, as it were, and shaped the outward form of the tree, causing it to make, in an ascent of about thirty feet, one complete revolution about a larger tree close to which it grew. On a smaller scale I have seen the same thing in a pine.
Persons lost in the woods or on the plains, or traveling at night, tend, I believe, toward the left. The movements of men and women, it is said, differ in this respect, one sex turning to the right and the other to the left.
I had lived in the world more than fifty years before I noticed a peculiarity about the rays of light one often sees diverging from an opening, or a series of openings, in the clouds, namely, that they are like spokes in a wheel, the hub or centre of which appears to be just there in the vapory masses, instead of being, as is really the case, nearly ninety-three millions of miles beyond. The beams of light that come through cracks or chinks in a wall do not converge in this way, but to the eye run parallel to one another. There is another fact: this fan-shaped display of converging rays is always immediately in front of the observer; that is, exactly between him and the sun, so that the central spoke or shaft in his front is always perpendicular. You cannot see this fan to the right or left of the sun, but only between you and it. Hence, as in the case of the rainbow, no two persons see exactly the same rays.
The eye sees what it has the means of seeing, and its means of seeing are in proportion to the love and desire behind it. The eye is informed and sharpened by the thought. My boy sees ducks on the river where and when I cannot, because at certain seasons he thinks ducks and dreams ducks. One season my neighbor asked me if the bees had injured my grapes. I said, “No; the bees never injure my grapes.”
"They do mine,” he replied; "they puncture the skin for the juice, and at times the clusters are covered with them.”
«No," I said, “it is not the bees that puncture the skin; it is the birds."
« What birds ? »
« We have,” I continued, “because at this season we think ori. oles; we have learned by experience how destructive these birds are in the vineyard, and we are on the lookout for them; our eyes and ears are ready for them.”
If we think birds, we shall see birds wherever we go; if we think arrowheads, as Thoreau did, we shall pick up arrowheads in every field. Some people have an eye for four-leaved clovers; they see them as they walk hastily over the turf, for they already have them in their eyes. I once took a walk with the late Professor Eaton of Yale. He was just then specially interested in the mosses, and he found them, all kinds, everywhere. I can see him yet, every few minutes upon his knees, adjusting his eyeglasses before some rare specimen. The beauty he found in them, and pointed out to me, kindled my enthusiasm also. I once spent a summer day at the mountain home of a well-known literary woman and editor. She lamented the absence of birds about her house. I named a half-dozen or more I had heard or seen in her trees within an hour,—the indigo bird, the purple finch, the yellowbird, the veery thrush, the red-eyed vireo, the song sparrow, etc.
“Do you mean to say you have seen or heard all these birds while sitting here on my porch ?» she inquired.
“I really have,” I said.
“I do not see them or hear them,” she replied, “and yet I want to very much.”
“No,” said I; "you only want to want to see and hear them.”
You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.
I was sitting in front of a farmhouse one day, in company
the great-crested flycatcher. I called the hunter's attention to it, and asked him if he had ever seen the bird before. No, he had not; it was a new bird to him. But he had probably seen it scores of times - seen it without regarding it. It was not the game he was in quest of, and his eye heeded it not.
Human and artificial sounds and objects thrust themselves upon us; they are within our sphere, so to speak: but the life of nature we must meet half-way; it is shy, withdrawn, and blends itself with a vast neutral background. We must be initiated; it is an order the secrets of which are well guarded. Complete. From the Century Magazine, December, 1899.